Food Allergy Parent Interview
This is the final interview in my series of chats with parents whose kids have food allergies and intolerances.
Today I chatted with Kelly, a Kindergarten teacher, and mum of two beautiful kids – one with several food allergies and one without. Until now I didn’t really have a very good idea about how food allergies can present themselves on the skin. Kelly has been kind enough to share some photos here of her youngest one’s allergic reactions. It breaks my heart, so I can’t even imagine what it’s like to see your own child’s little body covered in puffy welts and hives after eating something. How incredibly frightening and saddening…
You can find Kelly on Instagram here, where she shares amusing moments of motherhood, her family’s health journey, and their adventures together.
Can you please introduce yourself and your family.
I’m Kelly, originally from Hawaii but now call Redondo Beach, California home. I teach kindergarten which at times is more relaxing than being home with two boys. Jackson is 3.5 and Logan is 17 months. I took this past school year off to stay home and focus on being a mum, but also knowing I needed to be available whenever a doctor said they had an appointment and I could go. A lot of the testing they want to do has to be done early morning. I couldn’t take off time from work to make all these appointments, so staying home has proved to be a great decision.
I wanted to share Logan’s story because I think it is a unique one. I think having such a list at such a young age is tough. He’s just getting to learn about food and everything he was given made him sick. He started to cry and shake his head no as I walked towards the highchair. He was associating that with the itchy feeling and it broke my heart. It took a lot of eating (feeding him) his safe foods standing up so he would learn that he got food he could eat. It makes me so happy now to see him walk towards his chair and pull it out or sign ‘eat’ and ‘more’ when I show him food. I also wanted people to know that his allergies are so unique but that doesn’t mean others don’t have them also. We get a lot of “I’ve never heard of someone allergic to meat” so I always show them the hotdog photo as proof of it.
Now that I’ve found out about the food, learned how to read labels and started getting some vegan cookbooks, he’s happy to eat! Even Disneyland has allergy friendly food so he got to enjoy a cookie the other day!! It made me so happy for him and all the other allergy kids and adults.
What food allergies does your family have? Do you have a family history?
We are a wild family of four – two boys 20 months apart. My eldest, Jackson, has no food aversions, or allergies. In fact, he has a great palate. He tries everything we put in front of him and usually lets us know he likes it by shaking a ‘thumbs up’ at us and saying “mmm good” to almost everything.
Logan is showing allergies to: egg white and yolk (but passed the baked egg test a few weeks ago!), dairy, peanuts, peas (which is hard because a lot of vegan food has pea protein and hummus has chick peas), wheat, beef, chicken, pork, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, oats (borderline), and sesame seed. Beef shows a big reaction which was really surprising!
Jackson is so happy when he realizes that his Loggie can eat something too. He is only a little older than 3 and he has learned to always ask me or dad if Logan can have a bite of something. I appreciate that so much. Also, because Jackson is still young he’s not totally set on his food habits either. It is easy to give him coconut milk yogurt or allergy free cookies. He thinks any amount of sugar is a treat 😉
My husband has a shrimp and lobster allergy and found that out when he was 13 and was making some kabobs with shrimp. The juice was getting on his skin and he was having hives. His mom asked if that’s happened before and he said that he thinks so and his throat gets itchy, but he thought everyone’s did that, (eye roll, boys). I have no allergies.
When and how did you find out about Logan’s allergies?
We figured out Logan’s allergies around 10-11 months. He had been breaking out in rashes all the time after eating. He often wouldn’t last in his high chair for more than 10 minutes and we knew it had to be because food was bothering him. We finally went to an allergist who did testing. We didn’t like our first allergist so have since seen a second one who did more tests on him.
What would you like other people to know about Logan’s food allergies?
Please stop asking (or hoping) if he will grow out of them. We don’t know this and it doesn’t make us feel better in the moment and maybe he won’t so we can’t think that way.
What are your family’s food handling practices? Do you keep allergens in the house?
Because he is so little we are ok making special “meals” for him and we do keep allergens in the house. We are lucky that the “worse” things that happens is a rash so we aren’t too worried about anything being a life or death situation for him (yet…) so I don’t yet feel like I need to do a full revamp of the pantry.
How do you manage going out in ‘the world’ eg. birthday parties, daycare/school, people’s homes?
Again, being so young this isn’t an issue. I do bring my own treats when we go out. He loves lollipops, and the Free to Eat brand has wonderful cookies that he (and all of us) really enjoys. I am looking for recipes that I can make so that his food looks similar.
I teach kindergarten and I know how important the “look” of food is to other kids, so I want to be able to find or make him chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, cake etc. that looks the same so he can eat and not be made fun of. Also, I want him to raise his hand when they talk about “who likes to eat___?” and him not feel left out.
Where have you found most of your support and information? Can you recommend any good websites or resources?
I have had to do a LOT of research on my own. I found a dietitian who wasn’t even that helpful. So I am doing a lot of label reading and lot of looking on Pinterest and Instagram for recipe and food ideas. Also, walking the aisles in Whole Foods.
What do you wish someone had told you as soon as Logan was diagnosed? Would you have done anything differently knowing what you know now?
I wish our allergist had a cookbook or dietician number to give us. I needed to finally hear things he could eat. I was tired of things he couldn’t. I needed to hear positive terms not anymore negative. I felt like we were given information and then the doctor walked away and never checked in.
Do you have a favourite recipe, or restaurant, or food blogger, or cookbook that you would like to share?
I LOVE what you are focusing on now this month. Veggie Grill restaurant is amazing. It was so amazing to walk into a restaurant and know that I could order anything and it was safe for Logan to eat. My food, his food, brother’s food. The restaurant is totally vegan, but tastes really good. I am not a “good” eater, so quinoa, kale, etc doesn’t appeal to me, so I have to learn to eat and enjoy that so we can have family meals for all of us to eat.
Can you tell us what the testing process is like please?
Hard to watch! Very difficult to do the skin test because he wanted to cuddle, but I couldn’t really hold him since I couldn’t touch his back. The blood tests were awful because they are just so little. The first blood draw was really bad because he was so fat they had the hardest time finding his veins. They tried his arms twice, even said they were going to check his wrist for a vein. They needed to use a heating pad on his elbow area and they finally got it on the third time. I was about to give up. The second blood draw was much quicker!
What do Logan’s allergic reactions look like?
Left to right: Logan’s first skin reaction; after eating pureed blueberries and apples; some more of Logan’s rashes; after eating some hotdog which he took from his big brother.